In Tennessee, 82% of babies are breastfed at some point, yet many moms-to-be don’t know what to expect. They’ve heard that breastfeeding is good for their babies, but they’re not exactly sure what’s normal and what’s not. And that’s common, especially among new parents.
We asked Robin Carter, BSN, RN, IBCLC, a Nashville-based nurse and lactation consultant to help us explore some of the most common myths about breastfeeding.
Myth: Breastfeeding is easy.
Fact: At first, everyone’s new , including moms and their babies. Eventually, once you both get the hang of it, breastfeeding may become easier. But you might be frustrated if you expect it to be easy from the get-go. “Both mother and baby can use an extra hand to get latched on successfully,” explains Carter. Even if you’ve read up on breastfeeding, it can be difficult and frustrating when you actually have to do it. That’s where a lactation consultant can come in handy.
Myth: Breastfeeding is always going to hurt.
Fact: It’s pretty common, especially for a first timer, to develop soreness from breastfeeding at the very beginning. But there’s a limit. “Tender is normal. Damage is not,” says Carter. When babies are not latched on properly, it can cause bleeding and cracking of the nipples, which can make it very painful for the mother. But a lactation consultant can help you figure out how to reposition your baby or address any other problems to reduce or eliminate that pain.
Myth: Pacifiers and breastfeeding don’t mix.
Fact: The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends avoiding pacifiers until breastfeeding is well established. After that, many babies do just fine, breastfeeding for nutrition and using a pacifier for comfort. In fact, sleeping with a pacifier can decrease the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). However, a pacifier should never take the place of a feeding.
Myth: If you’ve breastfed one baby, you won’t have any trouble with another baby.
Fact: You could have a very easy experience with one baby but not with the next one. Or you could have difficulty breastfeeding your first baby, while your experience with another baby is problem-free. “Every baby is different,” says Carter. “Every mouth is different, and sometimes, the expectations are different, too.” You have to treat each baby as an individual and go from there.
Myth: You can’t take any medication while you’re breastfeeding.
Fact: It depends. Your doctor might advise you to avoid some medications, but there are others that are generally considered safe. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends taking the lowest dose of a medication for the shortest amount of time, as a general rule. If you have to take a medication that’s considered potentially harmful, your doctor might suggest you pump your milk until your body has cleared the medication from your system. Before you take any medication, consult with your doctor to be sure.
Myth: You can’t get pregnant while you’re breastfeeding.
Fact: You probably know at least one person who got pregnant while they were still breastfeeding. It’s a common misconception. The truth is that you certainly can get pregnant while you’re breastfeeding, even if you haven’t had a period yet. Talk to your healthcare provider about birth control. A hormonal method could affect your milk supply, so discuss all the possible options, both hormonal and nonhormonal, so you can choose the right one for you.
Experts such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for at least the first six months. But it’s easier for some women than others. If your goal is to breastfeed for your baby and you need some additional support, consider one of these resources:
BlueCross resources. Check out BlueCross’s online resources for information about breastfeeding and other support that you might need after your baby is born. If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming a parent, BlueCrosss has healthy maternity resources online, as well.
State hotline. Call the Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline at 855-4BF-MOMS. The hotline, which is staffed by International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC), is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also find a designated breastfeeding expert in your community.